Over the last couple of weeks, the legalization of sports betting in Florida seemed like a done deal. However, efforts to legalize online wagering in the Sunshine State have hit an unexpected obstacle. At the moment, it’s unclear when will Florida online betting become fully legalized.
Earlier this year, Seminole Tribe signed a 30-year deal with the State of Florida that was supposed to bring legal online sports betting to the state. The signed compact would grant the tribe exclusive rights to provide betting services on the territory of Florida. On the other hand, the state was supposed to get an estimated $2.5 billion in revenue sharing out of this deal. The agreement was approved at a special Legislative session in May.
Nevertheless, the whole deal now hangs in balance after a federal judge has overturned the agreement. On November 1, the Seminole Tribe’s launched their online sports betting plan, but it’s now stopped in its tracks. United States District Judge Dabney Friedrich that the plan was violating both the constitution of Florida and the federal Indian gaming law.
The Tribe’s betting operation in the state was supposed to be run through the Hard Rock Sports app. In his decision, judge Fredrich singled out the part of the agreement that stated that sports betting in Florida can take place from any device in the state as long as it goes through serves on the Seminole land. According to the judge, this provision of the contract is in violation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The law, dating back to 1988, allows and regulates gaming on the tribal land. However, the judge ruled that if the app and website users are not on tribal property, that kind of gaming doesn’t fall under the IGRA.
The main beneficiaries of the ruling are “family-owned” businesses such as Magic City Casino in Miami-Dade County and Bonita Springs Poker Room located in Southwest Florida. Back in July, Magic City filed a lawsuit, directly stating that the above-mentioned provision is in breach of federal law. They argued that the compact would have a devastating on their businesses. After the judge has announced her decision, Magic City Casino has issued a statement. They claim that the ruling is a victory for family-owned businesses in the state. It should provide an environment where the gaming operations would be guided by the free market. They once again confirmed their commitment to working with the state, the Governor, and the citizens to create a fair gaming marketplace in Florida.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said that the ruling came as no surprise. His administration expected that something like this may happen. He added that US online gambling using servers only in specific locations was a problematic legal issue from the start.
Despite the ruling at the court, Florida bettors could still place their bets, at least that was possible as of Wednesday morning. According to the users, the app was still up and running at that time, after a brief period of unavailability the day earlier. On Tuesday, the Seminole Tribe has filed an appeal against the judge’s decision.